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Workshop Appliances with Cecil Rogers


Building a Bench Hook - Workshop Appliances by Cecil Rogers

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A bench hook is nothing more than three sticks of wood.

More often than not, they can be made of scraps and cutoffs. Designs can be dirt simple or very involved. Even the simple designs can change depending on the goal of its use, but with a little planning, they can be turned into double or triple duty appliances.

A simple bench hook".

Once built, many appliances will last a lifetime. Some will not. Bench hooks fit into the second group. Over time, they will get beat on, cut, pounded, and used up. It's just the nature of the beast. I built a few of the very involved versions early on. It adds time and complexity to something I've discovered, at least for me, should be kept dirt simple.

What It Does...

Bench hooks use gravity and the force of the tool to aide in (typically) cross cutting a piece of wood. They also have the benefit of adding a measure of safety for operations that should never be considered with power tools. Additionally, for small pieces, they can be pressed into service as mini shooting boards. Handy, huh?

Gravity and tool force hold the workpiece.

How to build it...

Historically, bench hooks would have been built with whatever timber cutoffs were available. One of my personal character flaws is that I don't care much for plywood and I loathe MDF conceptually. But, this is one of those occasions where man made materials will work just as well as the finest scraps of mahogany.

In its simplest form, a bench hook has the following three parts: Hook, fence, bed. That's it: nothing more. The hook is attached to the front of the underside of the bed. It catches the front edge of your bench. The fence is attached on top of the bed toward the rear. This is where one references the work piece. Finally, the bed is where the work piece rests.

If your only intent for a bench hook is a rough cross cut, there isn't any need to make any of these parts with extraordinary care, and you can build this thing in minutes. However, if you do decide to mill them with a high degree of accuracy, it's easy to turn this simple appliance into a precision tool. And, it takes little more effort to do so.

Note: I'm a righty, and I'll be building this accordingly. If you're a southpaw, well, you know the drill. Build everything in reverse.

A bench hook can be any size you like, and ultimately, it should be scaled to the work you do. The sizes listed here will work well though. Cut the bed to 8" wide by 10" long. Use standard 3/4" stock for the fence and hook, but mill it to about 2"" wide. Cut the hook to about 8 1/8" long (slightly longer than the bed is wide), and cut the fence to about 7".

NOTE: If you're using solid wood for the bed, you should consider using an end grain cut for the fence and hook.

Grab the glue and screws, and a quality square, and let's build this thing.

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